The Attic Atheneum (Master Writing Program)

Portland's groundbreaking alternative to the MFA.

An annual certificate program, the Attic Atheneum melds independent study under close faculty supervision, student receptions, public readings, and other special Atheneum events created around good food and great conversation, dialogue, and literary community.

What do you experience? Writing salons. Genre meetings. Monthly private, one-on-one conferences with published writers. Writing Partners. Manuscript Readings. Public Reading. Revision Retreat. Publication Strategies. Community. Feedback. Literary friendship.

Running for just under a year, the Atheneum is designed to advance your writing and seed literary life in the city. Atheneum Fellows form a unique community of literary artists and citizens.

For the next Atheneum year, we're taking applications only in fiction and nonfiction -- and will include Portland-based fellows alongside online-based fellows. 



Atheneum Faculty for 2024-2025

Lee Montgomery, Laura Moulton, Joanna Rose, Brian Benson.

*For July applicants, no letter of recommendation required.




The Attic Atheneum offers a unique and pragmatic format for an intensive focus on your writing while participating fully in your everyday adult life. The Atheneum provides you with a thriving literary community comprised of up to 20 members — with no more than 8 students each in fiction and nonfiction, and 4 faculty.

An alternative to traditional and low-residency MFAs, the Atheneum is structured to build on your strengths and encourage you to become an active participant in your literary life.

The program includes independent study under close faculty supervision, receptions, public readings, and discussion, selected readings, and other Atheneum events created around good food and great conversation, dialogue, and community. Plus, an end-of-program urban retreat to focus on your future writing goals.

Historically, an atheneum is a literary or scientific association dedicated to learning. And that's how we envision the Attic Atheneum, too.

The Atheneum aims to foster a strong sense of community among both students and faculty and to make each year's class of students a unique collection of writers and readers.

Our vision is that, in the future, Attic Atheneum alumni will continue to interact with current Atheneum members and help broaden a thriving literary community from year to year.

How does it work? Throughout your Atheneum year as an Atheneum Fellow, meetings and correspondence between you and the faculty mentor occur at regular intervals. Through building community and emphasizing an individualized course of study and engagement with faculty, our goal is not to duplicate the MFA model or to supply academic credentials, but to allow you to immerse yourself in your writing discipline, help you to remain accountable to your aspirations over an extended and reasonable period of time, and to affirm your literary ambition and skills.

"The Atheneum faculty cultivated and challenged us throughout the program—for me, over two years. When I started, I had a handful of pages and lots of notes and ideas for a novel that felt too daunting to take on, and without the structure and provocations and guidance from the Atheneum, I don’t know that I would have really gotten it moving. (I very much doubt I would be closing in on 400 pages by the end.) The monthly check-ins have helped me understand that the good things emerge not necessarily every day, but from showing up every day—over months—to build the work over time. I sort of knew that before, but now I know it in my bones. I believe it. Book recommendations on craft, as well as the ingenious generative prompts and thematic discussions about staying focused and contemplating what we really want from being published, have shaped my understanding of the avocation and helped me feel grounded. I don’t like the thought of not seeing everyone in the Atheneum as much as the last two years, but I do feel much better equipped than I was before the Atheneum. Night and day." ~ Rick Rees, Atheneum Class 2022 + 2023

"My year of Atheneum study introduced me to a whole new approach to writing. After years of workshopping my pages in a weekly group, the Atheneum offered additional opportunities to talk about writing during bimonthly salons at the Crows Nest and public readings. I came away from the Atheneum with a new narrative arc, plus a whole new group of writing friends that I'm still in touch with a year after the program ended." ~ Kelly Wallace, Atheneum Class 2014

"In the past year, I have come to discover writing as an anchor for my evolving private and public lives. This program has helped me embrace the ups and downs, and uncertain refueling points, that are personally integral to sustaining the craft." ~ Shelley Stearns, Atheneum Class 2013

"After taking my first fiction class with Merridawn Duckler last year, I was crushing. Hard. So I applied to the Atheneum just to have an excuse to be around her more. I knew I would thrive under her instruction; with Greg Robillard as the other half of "Team Lies" I knew I was lucky. Besides absorbing as much of their wisdom on craft as I could, my confidence in asking the right questions, finding the heart of the story, and trusting my instincts increased. Of course, they were just two of a group of kick ass writers who were at once inspiring and gracious, encouraging and impressive...not to mention incredibly witty. I now take myself as a fiction writer seriously because of the Atheneum, and my once small crush has become a full-blown love affair with the Portland literary community." ~ Celeste Hamilton, Atheneum Class 2012

"The Atheneum had a profound impact on my writing. Over the course of the year, I learned so much about craft and my own voice, and I emerged with a real sense of possibility about my ability to become a capital-w Writer. For motivated, dedicated writers, the program offers a great balance of structured activity and time to write. I can't imagine having this level of determination, confidence and curiosity without my experience in the Atheneum." ~ Brian Benson, Atheneum class of 2012 

"The cross-genre Atheneum has given me some sense of what other writers are doing and a clearer sense of what writers in each genre have in common as well as our perceptions of art, our triumphs and frustrations with publishing, and the local literary scene." ~ Jodie Marion, Atheneum class of 2011



Applications Due:

July 7, 2024



Nomination/Application Form (** Please note: if you are having trouble getting your app to us in time, need support or extra time with your letter of recommendation, please email us. We know this is a difficult time to be applying for something in the fall, and we want to make it work for you.)

Cost: The Atheneum is a program akin to a low-residency MFA program in many ways, except one: cost. Low-residency MFA programs cost between $14,000-$24,000 year, while the tuition for the Atheneum is under $6,000 a year. We want to support our dedicated faculty who work one-on-one with each student in each genre and, each year, design the program afresh for the students who are coming in. This combination helps keeps the cost to students lower than low-residency MFA programs. Our Atheneum faculty are highly accomplished, widely published writers, publishing in multiple genres, and have developed a method of working together as a team that is unique. Tuition for 2024-2025 Atheneum

Atheneum Fellows Class of 2024

Atheneum Fellows Class of 2023

Atheneum Fellows Class of 2022

Atheneum Fellows Class of 2021

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2020

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2019

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2018

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2017

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2016

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2015

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2014

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2013

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2012

Atheneum Fellows: Class of 2011


The Atheneum year runs from September - June.

Writers may nominate themselves.

Nomination/Application Form


For more information, contact us directly.

A Statement of Our Values

The Attic Institute of Arts and Letters opposes the legitimation of bigotry, hate, and misinformation. As a studio for writers, we do not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind. We embrace and celebrate our shared pursuit of literature and languages as essential to crossing the boundaries of difference. To that end, we seek to maintain a creative environment in which every employee, faculty member, and student feels safe, respected, and comfortable — even while acknowledging that poems, stories, and essays delve into uncomfortable subjects. We accept the workshop as a place to question ourselves and to empathize with complex identities. We understand that to know the world is to write the world. Therefore, we reaffirm our commitment to literary pursuits and shared understanding by affirming diversity and open inquiry.